This last couple of weeks I was lucky enough to see two concerts. One was Adele. The other was the Baby Animals. Which just about sums up the confusion that is in my head at most times. But that's another post.
Adele and Suze DeMarchi are smart, sassy, talented women of different generations. Seemingly not much in common except they are both great entertainers. But the one glaring quality they share is that of authenticity.
Adele's voice is like honey. I like Adele but would not have bought a ticket. My dear friend shouted me for my birthday and I will never forget the moment those silken tones caressed my ears, my heart and my mind for the first time that night. Serious girl crush. But Adele is more than a voice. She's the real deal. You get the feeling that the way she talked to 95,000 people in a stadium is the way she'd talk if you were in her backyard. She's in a glittering ball gown but walks a bit like a bloke. I love her.
Suze DeMarchi comes out on stage, together with the Baby Animals for the first time in 20 years, a 53 year old woman who has lived life and is comfortable in her own skin. The head toss (why can't my hair fall that way?) and the total joy and ease she is feeling at what she does reaches out from her and floods into you.
Being you on stage is a tough thing to do. Apart from the rock star speakers I know (hello PSA community!) most of us are happier being in the audience. Ancient fears kick in as we stand on stage. Because in previous times, if we had dozens of pairs of eyes glued to us, we were lunch!
How many of you lose your personality on stage? Do people give you feedback that you were not your normal self? Your lively tones become as interesting as someone practising the opening bass line from Smoke on the Water for an hour?
This is because when we think we're the main course we try and make ourselves as small and still and as unnoticeable as possible. Good when trying not to be devoured, not so good as the opening speaker at the industry conference.
I often use the backyard to help me find my own real. Sometimes on stage if I find myself becoming too formal, or too rote, or simply feeling like I'm not connecting, I do an inner shoulder roll, take a deep breath and re-set, grounding myself in gratitude for being there. Then I take a look at the audience and see them in my backyard, a glass of chardy in hand, and I'm just telling a story to my friends.
This exercise also calms your nerves. The thought of drinking chardonnay lights up the same area of the brain (the primary sensory cortex) that lights up when you actually drink chardonnay. So technically I can stop drinking and just think about it. Hmm. So that will never happen. Ok, forget that I ever said this bit.
Audiences love speakers who are real. They're just happy they're not the ones up there speaking. Don't be afraid to say - is it ok with you if I check my notes/ read this part? I feel strongly about it and I want to get it right.
Making mistakes actually makes us more likeable, thanks to the Pratfall Effect. It makes us more human and allows us to connect. We all know how we feel about someone who is smart, articulate, beautiful and well off with perfect hair and nails. Ewww.
And finally, know your content inside out and back to front. Because when you've prepared and rehearsed to the hilt, you'll feel ready. And that frees you up to relax and to be yourself.
The advice of "just be yourself" slips off the tongue easily but is impossible when you are unprepared. But with a little bit of work, just like Adele and Suze, you too, can have your audience riveted.
Don't try and emulate any one else. Watch and learn techniques, by all means. But be brave enough to be you, the very best you that you can be. That Dr Seuss was a smart guy -
Today you are You. That is Truer than True. There is no one alive who is You-er than You.
Don't forget it.
Lynne Schinella is a conference speaker, speaker coach, and author of Bite Me! and other do's and don'ts of dealing with our differences.
To see Lynne speaking live click here.
For more information on what Lynne does, click here.
And if you're ready to take on the world, see more information on her speaker retreats for executive women here.